George, Pacers agree on new contract

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George, Pacers agree on new contract

INDIANAPOLIS - Paul George wanted to keep playing in Indiana. Larry Bird made sure he wasn’t going anywhere.

The Pacers star forward agreed Tuesday to a long-term contract, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because it won’t be officially announced until Wednesday. Terms were not immediately available, but he is eligible for a five-year deal worth between $80 million to $90 million, depending on the salary cap.

George’s rookie deal was set to expire after next season, and the 23-year-old All-Star almost certainly would have been one of most attractive players on the free-agent market. There was speculation the Los Angeles native might return to California and team up with Kobe Bryant to restore the luster to the Lakers’ proud franchise. But publicly and behind the scenes, George repeatedly said his sole intention was to win a championship with the Pacers.

Bird was so determined to get the deal done before training camp opened Saturday that he left his golf clubs at home Monday instead of playing in the annual Pacers Foundation outing. Instead, he returned to the office to continue negotiating.

By Tuesday afternoon, everything fell into place and the Pacers get a cornerstone player for the future.

The 6-foot-8 forward has made dramatic improvement in each of his first three NBA seasons.

He was a key player off the bench as a rookie, then emerged as a solid starter in his second season, and last year averaged career-highs of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists. George’s numbers increased during the playoffs as he led Indiana past Atlanta and New York and into the Eastern Conference finals. The Pacers pushed the defending champs to Game 7 before losing at Miami.

He was a third-team All-NBA selection, a second-team all-defensive pick, was named the league’s most improved player and earned a second straight trip to USA Basketball camp this summer. AP
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